Beer Budget Dressage

I don’t need a farm name, but if I was going to try to hang out a shingle as a “real” dressage rider, Beer Budget Dressage would have to be it. I was thinking this the other night as I was lunging Whitman in the freezing cold with the winds howling against the arena roof. Don’t get me wrong, I have a pretty decent set up for which I am very grateful, but we have worked ourselves hard to have what we do.

Whitman is a good example of this. NitWhit is a very nice (if I do say so myself) horse. In order to be able to afford a horse like that, I had to sell a nice eventer that I had brought along from being a yearling. Some of that money went into buying a very nice prospect as a five month old and then housing and caring for him for three years before I could start him. Hopefully some day it will all pan out.

Beer Budget Dressage

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Mitt Romney, move aside. You may have increased attention for the elitist sport of dressage in national media, but I am here to rip it back down to the working class. Technically, I would consider myself on the modest side of middle class, but in dressage terms I practically qualify for a UNICEF grant and a TV ad with a crying Sally Struthers trying to get me adopted.

“Beer budget dressage” was what I was calling my hobby the other night as I was trying to manage my high maintenance four (almost five) year old warmblood. Whitman reacts to the wind if it suits his mercurial moods. Not to stereotype, but I am currently riding three horses of my own. Ries is eight years old (or maybe nine??) OTTB, Tas is a ten year old Morgan, and Whitman is an Oldenburg.

All three are stereotypes of their heritage. Ries is the typical sensitive, workaholic race track flunky. Despite some people’s opinions on OTTB’s, ours are generally stoic and about as bomb-proof as you can get. Ries sets the bar high for steadfast. The wind can make it sound like the arena roof is going to be torn off and he doesn’t twitch an ear. The snow was sliding off the roof and it doesn’t change the ride one bit. Since it was a lesson student, I was very appreciative. I can barely keep the fellow sound, but he is well worth the effort and expense. I adore Ries. He is about the most dependable (soundness aside) facet of my life. Unless he is pain, the horse does not have a “no” button. At the same time, I am developing an OCD trying to find a dressage saddle for him that we can both agree on. Ries is certainly on the “pending sainthood” list. He is super light to the leg, and wonderfully forward in a good way. I could set my watch by that horse (again, not counting soundness).

Tas is much more high-strung. He could occupy a string of therapists. Tas is a bit like a neurotic labrador – meaning a field trials Lab. He adores humans, needs to be in your pocket, is a tad co-dependent, and can go-go-go from sunrise to sunset. Tas is certain that everything is his fault and if he could speak, every other word would be “sorry”. Snow coming off the roof upsets him, but if the human keeps a steady head and hand he can function. True to his breed, he is way too smart. Most horses do not seem to have a concept for “up” or “above”. Tas was unaware of this and we were all impressed by how he could contort himself to look up and watch the snow sliding off of the clear panels in the arena roof. Like our other Morgan, he also exhibits the Morgan characteristic of self-preservation. These guys know where all of their body parts are and just how to keep themselves safe. As long as you can stick with them-not always an easy feat-you are safe.

Now take Ries’ sensitivity, add in Tasman’s level of reactivity and strip away the commonsense and self-preservation. Ladies and gentleman – allow me to present Whitman. I led him out of the barn today after tacking up. I have no idea what set him off, but he went bounding across the driveway with me ski-jouring along on the ice. We managed to get to the arena and as the door opener engaged, he tried to bolt again. This time with traction on my side, it was less interesting. However, I decided that despite all of the turn out time, that lunging was a good idea. I. Hate. Lunging. I also have a very high opinion of my ability to stay on. This lets you know just how high-as-a-kite nitWhit was.

So we longed, and we longed, and we longed. Then the little rat went bucking and bolting on a hard left turn while we were lunging to the right and got away from me. Once he was caught, nitWhit decided to try that three or four more times. This time, I was prepared – between a better grip on the longe line and getting my butt nice and low when he tried to tear away – and we were able to come to more agreeable terms.

I alternated between thinking “damn, that is one nice horse” and “sh$% – I have to get on that thing?!”. On the bright side, once I swung a leg over, nitWhit was ready to settle in and work. So we had a lovely ride to the soundtrack of falling snow, howling wind, and an endless tirade of desperate snowmobiles trying to get down the trail right by our arena one last time this weekend.

Stay classy, western New York!

Tennis!? Why not tennis?

This is a question a friend of mine and I pose when we are truly questioning our horse habit. Evidently the joke that some people are just born with the H gene and there is no getting around it is not a joke. Take tonight for instance. Its snowing considerably and its a Friday night. There is no going out to dinner (not that I really like to, but that is besides the point), there is no chilling on the couch. Its ten pm and I just got to my couch. I am also sitting on my feet in hopes of warming them up. We go out as a family to do barn chores in the late afternoon, take a dinner break and then once the small one is tucked into bed, back to the barn I go to work horses and do night chores.

It really is an addiction. The only real difference is that if someone asked me what I do for a hobby and I said that I was a crack addict they would be horrified. However, if you say you are a horse back rider, normally the response is rather impressed or positive – neutral at the very least.

Seriously, though – why not tennis? It can be done inside or out. It has to be cheaper. You can play tennis on vacation, or even go on vacation to play tennis in exotic locations. If your racket is problematic, you can just buy a new one. Going to the gym on a regular basis would count as part of your tennis habit. You buy lots of cute little clothes to play tennis in and all the time playing tennis would make it so that you looked really trim in said clothing. Your tennis racket will not run out, toss you off or try to die in the middle of the night because it does not feel like drinking for some reason known only to God. And if your tennis racket breaks, who cares. With all the money you have not spend on horses, you just buy your self a better tennis racket. When your tennis balls wear out, you make yourself a hero in the eyes of your dog.

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To be honest though – why not tennis? Its simple – eye/hand coordination. I lack that. Like many people I know that are very competent riders, I am one of those lucky people who cannot manage chewing gum and walking at the same time many days. While I have no trouble coordinating myself on a rambunctious warmblood with a talent for bucking and generally exuberant airs-above-ground, the idea of smacking the little yellow ball with the racket would be rather out of my league.